Abstraction and the Details

by Kieran Healy on January 22, 2008

Nicholas Gruen and Tom Slee follow up — and generalize from — my post the other day about the details of proposals for presumed-consent organ donation in Britain. Here’s Nicholas:

bq. But for a long time I’ve observed the poor functionality of economics which often gets itself hung up on what’s in the textbooks, rather than trying to use the concepts, principles and techniques enunciated there as a _first jumping off point_ and a tool kit to try to solve problems keeping in mind that the solving of problems will almost always involve a high degree of (non-disciplinary) commonsense.

And here’s Tom:

bq. The common thread is that the big decisions and big ideas make less of an impact than the low-level, detailed specifics of each situation. … It’s a small step from there to saying that people at the top of large organizations (whether they be governments or countries) have surprisingly little influence and that we should not pay much attention to broad pronouncements and grand visions. It’s people dealing with everyday problems that we should pay attention to.

Jeremy picks up on this CNN talking point. It’s Race vs Gender and Black Women face a Tough Choice! As noted in the first comment in the thread, “this ‘race vs. gender’ construction, as if men have no gender and whites have no race, is driving a lot of people crazy.”

Class, Schools, and Research Literacy

by Harry on January 22, 2008

Richard Rothstein is speaking on Wednesday (23rd) in Madison. The title is Can Improved Schools Close the Achievement Gap? and he’ll be talking about his brilliant book Class and Schools, which is probably the best, and certainly the most accessible, evaluation of the various school improvement efforts addressing the gap in achievement between children from different socio-economic groups. (He’s speaking at Grainger Hall 2120, at 6pm — I strongly recommend our Madison readers to attend).

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